A High Court judge ruled that Sixtus Leung and Yau Wai-ching, of the Youngspiration party, violated a section of the semi-autonomous Chinese city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, as well as laws covering oaths taken by officials.
Justice Thomas Au said his decision was not influenced by Beijing’s controversial intervention last week into the political dispute, in which it pre-empted the court with its own ruling aimed at blocking the two politicians from getting a second chance to take their oaths.
The judge sided with Hong Kong’s leader and justice secretary, who had filed a legal challenge to prevent the two from taking their seats in the legislature, arguing that they had effectively declined to take their oaths by distorting them at the swearing-in ceremony last month.
Mr Leung, 30, and Ms Yau, 25, also displayed a flag that said “Hong Kong is Not China” and used an old-fashioned derogatory Japanese term for China. Ms Yau inserted a curse word into her pledge, while Mr Leung crossed his fingers.
The judge said: “By seeking to make a mockery of China and the People’s Republic of China in a derogatory and humiliating manner, it is objectively plain that Mr Leung and Ms Yau refused to pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China.”
The two politicians said they would appeal the decision to the Court of Final Appeal, rather than accepting the outcome and running for the seats again in a by-election.
“What is the meaning of joining this by-election if the result can be overruled by the government easily?” said Mr Leung, who accused Beijing of destroying Hong Kong’s values.
In an unprecedented step, Beijing handed down its own interpretation of the Basic Law last week, circumventing Hong Kong’s courts and raising fears that the city’s wide autonomy and independent judiciary under Chinese rule were being undermined.
China’s most senior legislative panel, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said that under the Basic Law anyone who doesn’t take their oath accurately, “sincerely and solemnly” should be barred from office.
While Hong Kong courts are required to enforce such rulings, Judge Au said he would have come to the same decision with or without Beijing’s interpretation.